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    This paper interprets the presumption of innocence as a conceptual antidote for sacrificial tendencies in criminal law. Using Girard’s philosophy of scapegoat mechanisms and sacrifice as hermeneutical framework, the consanguinity of legal and sacrificial order is explored. We argue that some legal concepts found in the ius commune’s criminal system (12th-18th century), like torture, infamy, or punishment for mere suspicion, are affiliated with scapegoat dynamics and operate, to some extent, in the spirit of sacrifice. By indicating how these concepts entail more or less flagrant breaches of our contemporary conception of due process molded by the presumption of innocence, an antithesis emerges between the presumption of innocence and sacrificial inclinations in criminal law. Furthermore, when facing fundamental threats like heresy, the ius commune’s due process could be suspended. What emerges in this state of exception allowing for swift and relentless repression, is elucidated as legal order’s sacrificial infrastructure.


Rafael Van Damme
Rafael Van Damme is PhD-student in philosophy.


Anne Ruth Mackor
Anne Ruth Mackor is Professor of Professional Ethics, in particular of legal professions, at the University of Groningen.

Vincent Geeraets
Vincent Geeraets is Lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the VU University Amsterdam.
Article

Access_open Retributivist Arguments against Presuming Innocence

Answering to Duff

Journal Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy, Issue 3 2013
Keywords broad presumption of innocence, retributivism, punishment of innocents, vicarious liability of car owners, drink-driving tests of non-suspects
Authors Alwin A. van Dijk
AbstractAuthor's information

    Factors justifying not presuming innocence are generally incorporated into the Presumption of Innocence (PoI). A confusing discourse has resulted: numerous guilt-presuming acts are deemed consistent with the PoI. I argue for an unusually broad PoI: any act that might convey to a reasonable actor that he is not presumed innocent of a punishable offence constitutes a PoI interference. Thus, academic debate need only be about the question what PoI interferences are justifiable or unjustifiable. This question must be answered using pro- and anti-PoI values. I analyse three PoI interferences in relation to Duff’s retributivist punishment theory: presumptions of guilt, vicarious liability of car owners and coercing non-suspects into proving their sobriety. Retributivists tend to castigate such procedures based on their (supposed) consequentialist rationale. I argue, however, that they might also be justified on retributivist grounds. The retributivist anti-PoI duty to punish the guilty may be the worst enemy of innocents.


Alwin A. van Dijk
Alwin A. van Dijk is Assistant Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Groningen.
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